What is sexting?
There are heaps of positive ways to use technology to share your life with people. Some people use technology to share photos of their family, or their breakfast, and some young people use technology to share photos of themselves naked, or semi naked.
Sexting is when people send and receive sexual messages from each other. Most young people probably don’t use the phrase ‘sexting’. They’d refer to these messages as ‘nudes’ or perhaps, with more graphic terms like ‘dick pics’.
- How to talk to your kids about: Pornography
- How much is too much social media for our kids?
- How to influence your teen
What are the risks?
Most people who send a ‘sext’ or a ‘nude’ only intend for one person to see it. But the reality is that as soon as you send a message, you’ve lost control of that message. There are at least three copies immediately. A copy on your device, a copy on their device and a copy that’s stored in some seemingly mythological cloud – but it’s as real as the copy on your phone. Some studies [1, 2, 3] show that these photos also regularly get shared beyond the intended recipient.
The safest way to reduce that risk is to never take or send a photo or video like that. If it doesn’t exist, it can’t get shared around. If it does exist, you have very little control on who ends up seeing that image.
Over the past few years, there have been a few celebrities who have made headlines because of ‘leaked nudes’. They are often rich and famous, and even with hundreds of lawyers, they can’t get rid of the image or the impact that it has on their reputation.
The real message
If someone is asking for nudes, what are they really communicating? It could be flattering or it could be outright disrespectful. Ultimately the message is this – “I don’t care about you enough to worry about your reputation. I just want something from you for my own pleasure.” It’s selfish. Young people need to know that they have every right to say no.
How to say no
Help prepare your child with ways to say no if they ever got asked to send sexts or nudes. They could reply with, “Hold on. I’ll ask my mum.” And then send a follow up, “Sorry she said no.” Or maybe you could help them brainstorm better ideas. For creative replies to nude requests check out this app – Send This Instead.
Talk about it
Ask your kid what their opinion of sexting is. Ask them if there are any downsides, and just like everything else, let them know what you think. But most of all, tell them that no matter what happens, or even if they make a mistake online, you’d rather know than not know.